Author in the Spotlight: Nancy LaRonda Johnson

It’s Thursday, and that means another Author in the Spotlight! My guest today is also my critique partner, so it’s a pleasure to highlight her work for you today.

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Nancy LaRonda Johnson has written short stories, poetry and personal journals most of her life, and has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and a law degree. A probation officer by day, she strives during her off-hours to write interesting characters who make it through trying times. Her first book, the literary Christian speculative novel Anticipation of the Penitent, about a serial killer and his mother, reached the finals in the San Francisco Writer’s Conference 2012 Indie Publishing Contest. Salted With Fire, a book of short stories and poetry, is her second publication. She is working on several projects, including a sequel to Anticipation of the Penitent.

Christian speculative fiction is horror, sci-fi or fantasy written from a Christian angle. Nancy also writes poetry when it hits her, and flash fiction  (very short stories, usually under 1000 words).

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SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: What do you enjoy the most about writing?

I love writing about everyday people and controversial topics with a touch of horror. In doing that, I hope to get people to question their beliefs and consider how although others may seem different, they are very similar to ourselves.  In other words, I love to “stir the pot” with my writing. Usually people who love my writing, do so even though they are disturbed by the lives they’ve encountered and the jarring roads they have to travel in the stories.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience?

In elementary school, I remember writing a story about my dog, Chico, getting lost in a regional part and how he found his way home. It was a valiant effort at a first story, but I thought it was quite bad. Even so, my teacher called me “prolific.” She told me to look the word up, which I did but still didn’t understand what it meant. It still encouraged me.

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

A good day is when, at every free moment, during slow times at work, once home after work, or on my days off, and in between every other responsibilities I have, I’m thinking about my characters, plots and subplots, am adding on to what I’ve already written or am editing it. But, unfortunately, there are days when the document doesn’t get opened.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

The most influential authors for me have been: Stephen King, for his always interesting characters; Octavia Butler, for her amazingly creative storylines; Gloria Naylor, for her real life, everyday strong characters; and the most influential book, the Bible, which has the most heart wrenching and uplifting stories, amazing poetic prose, and is true. Which reminds me that true stories, especially true crime books, have also influenced me greatly.

#5: What are some things you learned to help with your success?

I’ve learned not waste money, which I have done too much last year. I’m learning that if I can’t see a matching return for the money, there’s no good reason to spend it and, in fact, is the worst entrepreneurship rule you could break. So, it helps to find free services whenever possible. Then go cheap. The place to spend the most, I’d say, is with editing.

#6: Describe your writing method:

When I’m starting on something new, even when I have an idea in mind, it really helps me to do free write or use a writing prompt to get me started. Some of my subplots were developed by this method and made my books much more complete and unpredictable.

What also helps me, especially if I’m not focusing or am feeling stuck, is to open up a blank word document and just start writing. Or, I just write at any point in the story that interests me that day. For me, it’s more blocking to write linearly. Much of my writing is mood or emotion based, or character driven, so writing a scene that grabs me that day really brings the best of my writing out.

Other than that, I just keep plugging away! Even if I don’t write as much as I’d like, it will eventually get where I want it to be.

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

So many people say that writers write. Very helpful, (not!) even if it’s true. Generally, I’m not one to sit for hours and hours writing every day, mainly because I don’t have the time. But I will push myself to write something, even if it’s a paragraph or developing or filling in an outline. Wherever you’re at with your discipline as a writer, just keep trying to increase from there, without guilt.

Another important thing to keep in mind is to get beta readers. This process has helped me greatly in my current project. Graeme has read my WIP as it developed, which meant at the worst stage, with the worst writing and incomplete storyline! But his input has been invaluable. Two other beta readers gave me wonderful input after I made changes to my first draft, which has made it so much better. With each drastic change in the book based on input I got from the beta readers, I like to get one or two other readers’ inputs. It’s amazing how much your original idea for the book develops! Since writing is subjective, readers let you know if what you’re trying to say doesn’t come through or doesn’t even make sense, and you make the changes to write what you really meant. Afterward, you realize that the book has gotten exponentially better.

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About Nancy’s Book Anticipation of the Pentinent:

Anticipation_of_the__Cover_for_Kindle

Trapped by the devil, Alezea bears Satan’s son and knows her life will never be her own. She is the mother of Thomas, a man reared by Satan to be a killer of life’s most innocent – little girls. Alezea lives detached from the horrors committed by her son and from her domination by the entity who uses her as he pleases. Until she meets Martha, who shows her a way out. Alezea will now risk her very soul to free Thomas from his father. The fight to save her son will either redeem Alezea or destroy her forever.

Rachel knows Thomas’ history, yet she believes her presence can transform him. Her belief in Thomas might send her fully into the devil’s realm or provide an opening for God’s miracles in both of their lives. In a scheme to continue his father’s line, Thomas may ruin his alliance with Rachel or rend himself from the dominion he was born to hold. The impulse to contrive his future takes Thomas to new heights in his lifework as a killer and pushes him toward maturity, while forcing him to encounter the astonishing truth of his heritage.

Anticipation of the Penitent depicts the battle between good and evil in one family until it is rendered to its destined completion. Only then will it be known whether Alezea succeeds in her struggle for a life free from Satan’s control.

Excerpt:

For the first time in twenty-seven years, Alezea looked at Thomas as a part of herself. He was human, not a pliant slave for the devil’s use and pleasure. A rivulet of shame started to stream its way into her heart for the actions she partook in with her son.

Her son. Tears manifested their way from within her soul and overflowed onto her cheeks. He was her son, not Satan’s. He lived in her world, not the underworld of the devil. Her formidable, strong, handsome son had the choice to not be the devil’s heir, just as she had the choice not to be the devil’s maiden.

It was late when Alezea finally completed her story to Martha. Alezea was amazed that Martha did not send her away forever or call the police to her home. Instead, Martha told her to go home. She told Alezea to not worry and that she would help.

Alezea reached out in the darkened room and touched her son gently on the arm, not with the initiation of demanded sexual perversion, but with the care and worry of a mother for her only child who was lost. That rivulet of shame slowly began to transform into a prospect of hope. Could her son, who had no guidance or teachings of goodness, be turned around?

This phenomenon of love for Thomas was in its infancy. But Thomas was a man in his twenties. Could he begin to see Alezea as his mother, to be respected and trusted? The immediate answer to herself was a blatant “No!” Rather or not she reached out to God previously, she knew that God was stronger than her shame, her doubts and the devil himself. She would fight for him. She would fight for her son.

She covered Thomas’ shoulders with his sheet and left his bedroom, closing the door quietly. Alezea stood, leaning gently against his door, still enjoying the emotional impasse welling inside her. For the first time ever, feeling something other than trapped, fear and shame, enabled Alezea to feel relief.

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Buy Anticipation of the Penitent for Kindle:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Anticipation-Penitent-Nancy-LaRonda-Johnson-ebook/dp/B009ZQCEEA

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Also by Nancy: Salted with Fire, a collection of flash fiction and poetry with a theme of spiritual growth

Salted_With_Fire_Cover_for_Kindle

Black magic, murder, insanity… humor, honor and devotion. Salted With Fire is a journey of flash fiction and poetry that shows my writing transformation from worldly to wanting to please God.

Flash fiction is my passion; poetry is my release. I love creating a complete story, with a beginning, middle and end, with twists, humor, drama, compassion and horror, all under 1000 words. Salted With Fire isn’t just a book of stories and poetry, it is my journey as a writer, from writing only for the mere joy of it regardless of the message, to writing stories that highlight God’s will for people, even if the stories themselves are not religious in nature.

Inside are fifteen flash fiction pieces and twelve poems with color pictures, and short Biblical discussions after each story.

Excerpt:

Heat

Smoothly, his hand moves
and glides across my arm,
leaving a trail of humidity in its wake.

Droplets of his heat rise on my skin,
and he takes my hand,
silken and shaken, into his.

Words aren’t spoken,
it’s time to listen.

The sound of “hush” comes from us both,
quieting the vibrations of our hearts that
diminish our ability to hear.

Our hands meld into one,
knowing this is how it should be.
Our arms draw closer,
our steps align,
and we arrive.

There is nothing left,
but to affirm the commands:
Honor. Love. Keep God with.
Only after, do we vow and alight
in our first kiss as one.

nancy-hand

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Buy Salted with Fire:

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/salted-with-fire-6

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Salted-Fire-Nancy-LaRonda-Johnson-ebook/dp/B00DFRU6L8

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Connect with Nancy:

Webpage: http://www.nancylarondajohnson.com

Twitter: @NLaRondaJohnson

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NancyLaRondaJohnson

Fan email address: nlarondajohnson-author@yahoo.com

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Author in the Spotlight: S.M Boyce

!BoyceInternational Amazon Bestseller. Fantasy Author. Twitter addict. Book Blogger. Geek. Sarcastic. Gooey. Odd. Author of the action-packed Grimoire Saga.

S.M. Boyce is a novelist who loves ghosts, magic, and spooky things. She prefers loose-leaf tea, reads far too many books, and is always cold. She’s married to her soul mate and couldn’t be happier. Her B.A. in Creative Writing qualifies her to serve you french fries.

Boyce also likes to update her blog a few times each week so that you have something to wake you up in the morning.

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SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: What do you enjoy the most about writing?

I love losing myself to magic and living in  impossible worlds. The freedom to let my imagination free tugs on me daily! I love my job.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience?

When I was five, I entered a writing contest on my parents’ encouragement and wrote a short children’s book about a lonely pickle and her hunt for friends. I don’t remember how it ended, and that’s probably a pretty good thing—it’s kind of a morbid story when I reflect on it. I mean, the pickle had friends before. The jar didn’t come from the store with just her in it. So how my five-year-old brain rationalized personifying leftovers is beyond me. I’m sure you’ll be completely surprised to hear that I didn’t win the contest. [insert sarcastic laugh]

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

I get up and go through my morning routine (workout, breakfast, laundry, exciting stuff like that). Before checking email or getting sucked into social media, though, I write for my day’s goal, usually 2-3 hours. After that, I read or get to work on my marketing, emails, and social media.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

I particularly respect Mr. Neil Gaiman, who manages to keep in touch with his fans despite being a massive success. He’s able to connect with them and genuinely show he cares, which I admire. Besides, he’s a kickass author with a knack for darkly beautiful worlds.

#5: What are some things you learned to help with your success?

This is a toughie, but here are a few:

  • Grow thick skin—you will never please everyone, and you’ll lose everything if you try. Just be honest and be true to yourself + your art.
  • Experiment—make every book a lesson in something. Stretch yourself and grow. Experiment with characters, push the limits of your own comfort, and teach yourself something new with every story you write.
  • Be imperfect—you must be open to experimenting and failing as an author, both in your stories and in your marketing. This is a rapidly growing, ever-changing world, and to keep up with it, you have to be willing to take a chance on something that doesn’t pay off.

#6: Describe your writing method:

Every book or series has a theme song. So when I’m ready to write or outline, I sit down and listen to that song. I’m instantly in the frame of mind needed to slip into that story’s universe, and it’s a fantastic jumpstart.  Before I actually start writing the story I’ll do an outline and have the people I write for look it over. Then comes the first draft, rewrites, critiques from others, rewrites, professional copyediting, rewrites again and professional proofreading.

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

Grow thick skin and prepare for rejection. Ours is a tough profession, but the passionate persevere and make it their lives. I keep a running blog just for writers like you, actually, with updates on news, advice, and industry trends. Check it out and subscribe if you want the latest advice I have to give.

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About Lichgates, Book One of the Grimoire Saga:

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Kara Magari is about to discover a beautiful world full of terrifying things: Ourea.

Kara, a college student still reeling from her mother’s recent death, has no idea the hidden world of Ourea even exists until a freak storm traps her in a sunken library. With nothing to do, she opens an ancient book of magic called the Grimoire and unwittingly becomes its master, which means Kara now wields the cursed book’s untamed power. Discovered by Ourea’s royalty, she becomes an unwilling pawn in a generations-old conflict – a war intensified by her arrival. In this world of chilling creatures and betrayal, Kara shouldn’t trust anyone… but she’s being hunted and can’t survive on her own. She drops her guard when Braeden, a native soldier with a dark secret, vows to keep her safe. And though she doesn’t know it, her growing attraction to him may just be her undoing.

For twelve years, Braeden Drakonin has lived a lie. The Grimoire is his one chance at redemption, and it lands in his lap when Kara Magari comes into his life. Though he begins to care for this human girl, there is something he wants more. He wants the Grimoire.

Welcome to Ourea, where only the cunning survive.

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Buy Lichgates here:

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/books/Lichgates-Book-One-Grimoire-Trilogy/SHMHKw_hW0OfdUzpEUx3Uw?MixID=SHMHKw_hW0OfdUzpEUx3Uw&PageNumber=1

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Lichgates-Book-Grimoire-Fantasy-Adventure-ebook/dp/B005W5L38G

Other(s): Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lichgates-s-m-boyce/1109150950?ean=2940044342927

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Books two and three of the Grimoire Saga are also available!

Treason (Book 2)

Kara Magari ignited a war when she stumbled into Ourea and found the Grimoire: a powerful artifact filled with secrets. To protect the one person she has left, she strikes a deal that goes against everything she believes in. At the last moment, everything falls apart… but Kara still has to pay the price.

Braeden Drakonin can no longer run from who–and what–he is. He has to face the facts. He’s a prince. He’s a murderer. He’s a wanted man. And after a betrayal that leaves him heartbroken, he’s out for blood.

To survive, both Kara and Braeden must become the evil each has grown to hate.

Buy Treason here:

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/books/Treason-Book-Two-Grimoire-Trilogy/gYDP2z5Gtk-oQ-MkZILeww?MixID=gYDP2z5Gtk-oQ-MkZILeww&PageNumber=1&s=WIzRNG9KIUa6HTK-r6Papg&r=1

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009O3D7WM?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creativeASIN=B009O3D7WM&linkCode=xm2&tag=hubp0aaf-20

Other(s): Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/treason-s-m-boyce/1114069696?ean=2940015595178&isbn=2940015595178

Heritage (Book 3):

Kara Magari isn’t normal, even by Ourea’s standards–and in a world of shape-shifters and soul stealers, that’s saying something. To the royalty, she’s a loose cannon. To the masses, she’s a failure. But Kara’s arrival in Ourea started a war, and she’s going to end it.

An ancient isen named Stone takes an interest in Kara’s training, and it turns out he has more answers than he originally led her to believe. In an effort to unearth a secret that might end the bloodshed, Kara instead discovers an ugly truth about her family–and how much she has in common with an infamous mass-murderer.

Braeden Drakonin has slowly rebuilt his life after the betrayal that tore it apart. His father wants him dead, and frankly, his so-called allies wouldn’t mind that either. Private alliances are formed. Secrets are sold. Tension is driving the armies apart. A single battle will end this war, and it’s coming. Braeden may be a prince, but it will take more than that to survive. He must take the fight to his father’s door–and win.

Buy Heritage here:

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/heritage-book-three-of-the-grimoire-saga

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00F2Y46I6?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creativeASIN=B00F2Y46I6&linkCode=xm2&tag=hubp0aaf-20

Other(s): Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/heritage-s-m-boyce/1116866080?ean=2940148396024

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Connect with S.M. Boyce:

Webpage: http://www.smboyce.com/

Blog: http://www.smboyce.com/boyce-blog/

Twitter: @thesmboyce

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thesmboyce

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Author in the Spotlight: Marie Powell

Another inspiring author has come to visit me today!

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M.E (high)

Marie Powell is a professional writer based in Regina, Saskatchewan. Her publications include children’s books, poetry, short stories, and nonfiction.

Amicus Publishing recently published her six-book series of beginning-readers in picture book format, Word Families. Her second six-book series will be published in Fall 2014. Scholastic Canada published her children’s book Dragonflies are Amazing.

Her award-winning short stories and poems appear in such literary magazines as subTerrain, Room, and Transition. Her journalistic articles appear in more than 70 regional, national, and international magazines and newspapers, as well as broadcast and online markets.

Marie holds a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia (UBC), among other degrees. Her writing workshops are popular across Saskatchewan, and have led to a monthly adult free-writing club in Regina. She is founder of the Professional Writers Association of Canada Saskatchewan Chapter, and a member of such organizations as CANSCAIP, the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, and the Editors’ Association of Canada. She also participates in such group blogs as Sci/Why (http://sci-why.blogspot.ca/2014/01/stories-in-slate-touring-underground.html) and Canscaip Sask Horizons (http://skcanscaip.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/research-how-much-is-enough/).

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SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: What do you enjoy the most about writing?

When I write, it’s like I’m “in the zone.” My perspective changes and my mind opens to new possibilities. I have to write every day, or my world – and my personality – just isn’t right. I write often about my fears or what scares me, or things and people that haunt me.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience?

I recall writing a short story in my back yard in about Grade Two. It was about a wasp that terrorized a town until the people rose up against it. I was afraid of bees and wasps then, so I guess I’ve been writing about my fears from the start. I made it into a book and gave it to my neighbor to read, and that was the start of a trend. My school writing journals were full of short stories and poetry.

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

That’s a tough question. The only thing I can say for sure about my day is that I get up about 6 am and write. I try to write for at least an hour a day, beginning with Morning Pages (Julia Cameron), which settle my mind to work. I’ll write for the whole morning if possible, but I don’t have a routine life so often that isn’t possible. I write in several genres, give workshops, and do part-time library programming – which means I get to tell stories and read books to children, and share books with teens and adults. My hours are variable each day and each week. Plus I was a single mom for years, so I learned to make time and write “in the cracks” as they say.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

Another good question! My personal writing mentors include Glen Huser, my thesis supervisor at UBC, Alison Lohans whose workshops in Regina moved me toward children’s writing, and Dr. Mary Blackstone, my MA thesis supervisor. I read all genres and have so many favorite authors. My formative reading included T. H White for The Once and Future King, Edgar Rice Burroughs especially for John Carter of Mars series, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Aldous Huxley, and Edgar Allan Poe. When I was in Grade 7, I volunteered in the school library with mostly Grade 8 girls, and one lunch hour I read “The Tell-Tale Heart” aloud to them. I think I’ve been hooked on suspense and speculative writing ever since. I hold a BFA and MA in theatre studies, so I love reading plays and poetry. I’ve started and facilitated writing groups, and that helps broaden my reading too. In terms of fiction, I read everything I can in many genres: Suzanne Collins, Susan Cooper, John Flanagan, Robert Sawyer, Jack Whyte, Ken Follett, Lois Lowry, Cassandra Clare, Robert Cormier, Eric Walters, and so many more.

#5: What are some things you learned to help with your success?

Mostly I’ve learned the value of persistence. I haven’t had anything come easily, but I just kept writing, even when it seemed I wasn’t getting anywhere. I had to learn to listen to the voices that helped my writing along, and tune out the others. In about 1994, I wrote a short story for a writing class. During the group feedback it received positive feedback from everyone (including the instructor), but one person said, “This is really just a character sketch, isn’t it?” That was the only voice I heard. I couldn’t figure out how to make it more of a story, so I put it in a box of writing that ended up in my basement. Then in 2004, I saw a local call for submissions from well-known author Byrna Barclay, who offered to give feedback on every submission. (She did, too, on more than 200 manuscripts.) I thought, “If anyone could help me turn it into a story, it’s Byrna Barclay.” Her letter back said, “I love your story and I want to publish it.” It changed everything. After that, I began to take writing more seriously. I joined writing groups and started sending my work out to contests and publications—and getting published followed.

#6: Describe your writing method:

I write in multiple genres, including feature articles, short stories, poems, children’s books and picture-books, and novels-in-progress. My short stories and novels are speculative fiction and historical fantasy. My process tends to move along a path: idea—research—writing—research—writing—research—revising—feedback—research—revising etc.

I have ideas all the time, and keep a journal to jot them down. I always try to keep that 6 am time for Morning Pages, so I know I will have that time to track my ideas (and fears), no matter how far-fetched or mundane they may seem. I flag all ideas that come up for future reference. Usually the ideas require research. I know very little, so I was never encouraged by that old adage, “Write what you know.” I like to think of it as, “Write about what you can find out.” Research can mean Internet searches, books, maps, personal travel, seeking out experts, interviews, letters, photos, images, chance meetings with strangers – you name it. I’m an inveterate researcher, so I often get ideas from the research too.

During the research, it also becomes time to write. One feeds the other. I usually engage the idea on several levels with a combination of “pantser” freewriting, charts, outlines, and the 10- to 20-page synopsis. Then as I begin to write, I find gaps in my research. I look up historical details, a setting, a photograph or image, or some other bit of research that helps me build the scene, so it leads directly back to the writing again. I’m also in two writing groups so twice a month I will need a 10- to 20-page submission, and that kind of deadline keeps me going.

That said, I once wrote and revised one postcard story for 10 years before it was finally published, and I also once had an idea while I was out for a walk, came home, wrote it down, sent it off to a contest the same day, and had it win second place with publication. So I’m not sure my method is that strict. Sometimes it’s a flash of luck or being in the right place at the right time.

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

Read voraciously. Write, and keep on writing. Believe in yourself. Take classes, join associations that help writers in your genre, join a writers’ group for feedback — and learn to analyze feedback so you can hear the comments that will help move your writing along. And above all, enjoy yourself.

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subTerrain63

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Check out Marie’s short story, “Grid Lines”, published in subTerrain magazine (issue #63, winter 2013), which was runner up for the Lush Triumphant Award.

Buy cover for buy page.

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Another short story of note is “Ghosting”, published by Room magazine (issue 33.1, Spring 2010), which placed second in the Room Annual Fiction Awards.

Buy it here: http://www.roommagazine.com/issues/competition

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Books medium

Marie’s Word Families series (12 books), available from Amicus Publishing, is a beginner-readers series in hardcover picture-book format. It’s geared for Grade One children to learn to read themselves. The first six – That Cat, Dig Pig, Out for Trout, Grow Crow, Nab the Crab, and Sleep Sheep – are nonfiction narratives with photographic illustrations. The next series will be fiction narratives with illustrations, expected out in Fall 2014.

Learning about word families is an essential skill for helping young readers become familiar with both the sounds and the spellings of words. These silly animal stories highlight common rhyming words with endings that are spelled the same way.  A fun way to introduce kids to phonics and early literacy skills.

Buy it here:

http://www.amicuspublishing.us/search?search_api_views_fulltext=word%20families

 

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Connect with Marie:

Webpage: http://www.mepowell.com

Twitter: @Mepowell

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mepowellmendenhall

Blog: http://mepowell.com/blog/

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Author in the Spotlight: Matt Moore

I’m pleased to welcome Mat Moore as my author in the spotlight guest this week!

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Matt Moore is a horror and science fiction writer who believes good speculative fiction can both thrill and make you think. His short story collection Touch the Sky, Embrace the Dark was released in 2013.

His columns and short fiction have appeared in print, electronic and audio markets including On Spec, AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, Leading Edge, Cast Macabre, Torn Realities and the Tesseracts anthologies. He’s a multiple Aurora Award nominee, Friends of the Merrill finalist, frequent panelist and presenter, Communications Director for ChiZine Publications and Chair of the Ottawa Chiaroscuro Reading Series.

Raised in small-town New England, a place rich with legends and ghost stories, he lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Find out more at mattmoorewrites.com.

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SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: What do you enjoy the most about writing?

It’s said stories were the first form of virtual reality. They transport the listener/reader into another world where they can explore others’ lives. As the storyteller, I enjoy this process of creating an immersive place with realistic people you might know in your real life. So, the escapism of it. And, I hope readers enjoy visiting these worlds as much as I do in creating them.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience?

I recall being in third grade and missing recess twice in a row so I could work on a short story I was writing about treasure-hunters as a class assignment. I was “that guy” when the teacher told the class they were to write a story and someone would ask for the minimum length, I would then ask about the maximum since I could easily go over it it. I don’t recall what I got as a grade, but I did enjoy writing a lot more than recess.

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

I work a full-time day job, so a day in my writing life is different every time.

If I have a full day I can set aside to writing, I find I have about three or four good hours of writing in me before I fade, so if I can get that time, it’s great. But there is more to writing than just pounding out words. There’s paper line edits, revising the manuscript, marketing, submitting stories, interacting with people on social media, reading, critiquing others’ work. I need to be able to do this wherever I am and with the time I have.

So a day in my writing life is getting as much done as I can with the time I have.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

There are so many.

Growing up, I read a lot of Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft. King, unfortunately, did not teach me restraint and so many of my stories from high school and university have massive digression and side stories that add nothing to the plot. Lovecraft was just so far out there that I learned that a plot’s resolution did not need to be wrapped up tightly in a bow. Sometimes, we have no idea what happened—that’s life.

Currently, I admire the work of David Nickle, Lydia Peever and Joel Arnold, who I think are doing great things in the horror genre. They are telling literary stories with strong themes and characters without sacrificing the toe-curling creepiness of horror.

#5: What are some things you learned to help with your success?

Be humble. It doesn’t matter if you routinely sell to pro markets and are nominated for awards, never act like you’re too good for something. Be grateful to those who read your work, appreciative of conventions that invite you to attend, and professional when dealing with fellow writers be they first time published or NYT bestsellers.

Also, understand the difference between the art of writing and business of publishing. As an author and artist, you can sigh heavily, stare out the window for hours, scribble notes to yourself as if they were written by a character—that is all fine. Honestly, we all wrestle with the creative process. But once you are dealing with someone else’s time, effort or money, you are a businessperson. Be professional and understand that others have their own motive in working with your story; rarely is it your greater glory. Editors will not care that you have not turned in your story because you’re “blocked” or can’t find the resolution for a minor character’s arc. They expect you to meet your deadline. If you think a contract is unfair, go ahead and try to negotiate, but don’t negotiate every single contract just because you think you deserve better than others.

#6: Describe your writing method:

Most stories begin with a kernel: “What if when you die, your afterlife flashes before your eyes?”, “What if the zombie apocalypse is the singularity?”, “What is the most useless were-animal?”

I then try to map a character’s growth, a theme or series of events onto this idea. If I find ideas are connecting, I try to outline and hopefully a theme will solidify.

Then I’ll start to write, but ultimately by the second draft I find something is not working and I revise, re-work and revise some more. I am usually on draft six before the major plot elements and character beats have finally lined up. I then revise to clean-up the language. During all of this are bouts of insecurity, second guessing and self-doubt.

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

I have three: one about the art of writing, one about the business, one about the lifestyle.

The Art: Work on strengthening one storytelling skill in every story you write, and make it an essential element of the story. If you have a dialogue-heavy piece with three main characters, give each a distinct voice. If you have an interesting setting, tell us about it using all five senses. Really work and hone that skill so that it comes naturally in your next story. But only work on one element per story. If you work on too many, you won’t strengthen anything.

The Business: Like I talk about above, understand the business of publishing. Who does what, what terminology is used, where does the money come from and go to? Read blogs and attend panel discussions with professionals in the industry. Publishers and editors are much more likely to take work from a good writer they can do business with than a great writer who is unreliable. Time is a publisher’s most valuable commodity. If you show you understand their world and can work with them, you will stand out.

The Lifestyle: Saying “I need to write” is not a magic ticket that excuses you from your responsibilities. Non-writers do not understand the need to write and the time that it demands. So, be open and honest with your family, partner, children and friends. Make sure your kids understand that if you are in your writing space with the door closed, they shouldn’t enter. If you are on a deadline, communicate this to your spouse that you might not have the time to do chores for the next day or two. But (and this is the main part), there has to be a balance. The time you spend writing is seen as time not spend with your significant others. If you are giving the impression that your writing is more important than they are, it will hurt your relationships. So make up for that time. If you get a writing night once per week, your husband should also get a night to do what he wants. If you hole up to do NaNoWriMo, how will you make it up to your girlfriend come December?

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Check out Matt’s latest book, Touch the Sky Embrace the Dark, ten horror / scifi short stories of the terrifying, the bizarre, the all-too-near futures. These stories first appeared in leading markets such as On Spec, the Drabblecast and Leading Edge. For fans of thought-provoking horror and science fiction, it includes the Aurora Award-nominiated stories “Delta Pi” and “Touch the Sky, They Say.”

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These worlds, and more, await you…

Only able to recall the memories of others, a ghost tries to solve the mystery of his death.

The zombie apocalypse is the gateway to a higher level of human consciousness.

An amusement park of the future might turn you into the attraction.

An engineer-turned-mercenary races to kill the savior of mankind.

When the sky falls, what room is there for hope?

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Matt’s Book is available on any of the platforms below:

Amazon US: www.amazon.com/Touch-Embrace-Dark-Matt-Moore-ebook/dp/B00F6G5WJW/

Amazon Canada: www.amazon.ca/Touch-Embrace-Dark-Matt-Moore-ebook/dp/B00F6G5WJW/

Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/Touch-Embrace-Dark-Matt-Moore-ebook/dp/B00F6G5WJW 

Kobo: store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/touch-the-sky-embrace-the-dark 

B&N: www.barnesandnoble.com/w/touch-the-sky-embrace-the-dark-matt-moore/1117053835

Sony eRader: ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/matt-moore/touch-the-sky-embrace-the-dark/_/R-400000000000001137365

Apple iBookstore: itunes.apple.com/ca/book/touch-the-sky-embrace-the-dark/id720794872

Google Play Books: play.google.com/store/books/details/Matt_Moore_Touch_the_Sky_Embrace_the_Dark?id=CZPlAQAAQBAJ

Smashwords: www.smashwords.com/books/view/360291

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Connect with Matt:

Webpage: MattMooreWrites.com

Twitter: @MattMooreWrites

Facebook: facebook.com/MattMooreWrites

Fan email address: MattMooreWrites@GMail.com

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Author in the Spotlight: Ryan McFadden

I’m pleased to welcome Ryan McFadden as my author in the spotlight guest today!

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Ryan T. McFadden is a two-time Aurora Award winner, the first for Women of the Apocalypse (Absolute Xpress – 2009) then for Bourbon and Eggnog (part of the 10th Circle Project). As well, he’s had numerous stories published in magazines and anthologies: Evolve 2- Tales of the Future Undead, Broken Time Blues, When the Villain Comes Home, Expiry Date (forthcoming), Blood & Water, Fight Night, Sinister Tales, and others.

He is one of the Apocalyptic Four (along with the current roster of Eileen Bell, Randy McCharles, and Billie Milholland), a collaboration that created The Puzzle Box (EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing).

He was one of the creators and editors of the 10th Circle Project, an award winning collaborative writing project based on the mysterious twin cities of Hope and Glory.

When he’s not writing, he is busy tearing down houses (and rebuilding them) with his home renovation company Revival Renovations.

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SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: Why do you write?

Because. It’s my way of expressing myself obviously, but without writing, I start to go a bit squirrely. Writing is something that I feel I need to do—I’ve somehow tied my whole identity and ego into it. Writing is me. As life has become hectic, sometime I’m not as disciplined as I need to be, but I always come back – because I don’t have a choice.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience?

The earliest I remember was sometime around grade 2. I couldn’t really write yet, so I started making picture books with a few words thrown onto the pages here and there. These picture books were about my favourite topics: space battles. I don’t remember much about it, but I do remember having lots of decapitations, amputations, and copious amounts of blood.

When I showed my mom, I still remember the look on her face – absolute horror. I was this quiet kid who somehow seemed to have an eye for violence. She said that all that violence was upsetting and that maybe I should write nice stories from now on. I mostly ignored that advice and instead only showed her the nice stories. The rest I kept between my mattress and box spring.

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

I’m not very focused. My usual writing day is checking email. Then checking bank accounts. Then surfing the web reading about the history of the baby seal hunt. The internet is my nemesis so I usually have to unplug. Completely. In the last couple of years, I’ve taken to hand writing all of my work. I like to go to a library and write—anywhere I won’t have interruptions but will still have that pleasant white noise.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

It was the fantasy writers that began my journey: Lloyd Alexander, then C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. I wanted to follow in their footsteps—to create the worlds of the fantastic.

When I was in my teens, it was Robert McCammon – his stories always had a sense of wonder to them, perhaps a little more fantastic than Stephen King. Clive Barker’s Books of Blood were hugely influential as they stretched the limits of what could be done in the horror field.

Robert J. Sawyer really pulled back the veil from the publishing world. There’s a reason so many people thank him at award ceremonies and dedicate books to him—he shares his wealth of knowledge of how to succeed.

#5: What are some things you learned to help with your success?

Writing has to be for the writer, first and foremost. If I’m not writing the story for me, then ultimately, the story will collapse. While you can keep an eye on the markets, write what is important to you.

#6: Describe your writing method:

I try to develop THE IDEA. That single nugget that makes someone go ‘huh’. From there, I start trying to develop a very loose plot. Then the characters because they’ll ultimately shape the plot. I like to extensively outline, even going so far as to write entire passages of dialogue. Most times, however, my outlines and the finished project are only distant cousins. Often when transforming an outline into a written work, flaws, logic gaps, and other inconsistencies become apparent. Each hiccough causes me to go back to the outline level.

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

Aside from all the ‘writers write’ stuff, I’d say that you have to start with short works. I still find short fiction difficult, but focusing on the shorter works will really help the novel. Robert J. Sawyer said to me: A lawyer doesn’t try murder cases directly from law school, so you can’t expect the novel to be your first sale. Focusing on the short fiction has helped all aspects of my craft—I can’t stress enough how important it was to my development.

Bonus second tip: quit waiting for the perfect time. Follow Nike: Just Do It! (Why, this could apply to everything in your life).

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The Puzzle Box, by Apocalyptic Four (AKA Eileen Bell, Billie Milholland, Randy McCharles and Ryan McFadden) is an urban fantasy novel published by EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

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Archeology Professor Albert Mallory understands reality. He knows the way the world works. When he steals an ancient puzzle box to pay off gambling debts, he thinks the only mysterious thing about the artifact is how to get it open. But when a stranger appears at Albert’s door demanding to see the box, Albert is plunged into mysteries he never dreamt possible. Through the tales of four others who succeeded in opening the puzzle box — a musician named Warlock with a weakness for witches; photographer Autumn Bailey, with a strange link to the past; video store clerk Angela Matterly with those unworldly eyes; and a comic book illustrator called Sam, on a quest for his life — Albert learns that reality is transient and the way the world works is not found in text books.

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Connect with Ryan:

Webpage: http://www.ryanmcfadden.com

Twitter: @ryantmcfadden

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ryan.mcfadden1

Fan email address: r@ryanmcfadden.com

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Author in the Spotlight: Kate Hilton

Say hello to Kate Hilton, my author in the spotlight guest today!

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Kate Hilton has worked in law, higher education, public relations, fundraising and publishing.  She has an English degree from McGill University and a law degree from the University of Toronto.  She holds down a day job, volunteers for community organizations, raises two boys, cooks, collects art, reads voraciously and likes her husband.  In her free time, she writes. On good days, she thinks she might have it all.  On bad days, she wants a nap.

The Hole in the Middle is Kate’s first book.  It was originally self-published, but was so popular with readers that it was acquired by HarperCollins Canada and re-released in print in November 2013.  Kate is represented by Beverley Slopen of the Beverley Slopen Literary Agency.

For more information about Kate, visit her website at www.katehilton.com.  You can also follow Kate on Twitter @katemhilton or on Facebook at Kate Hilton Author.

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SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: What do you enjoy the most about writing?

I like the self-discovery inherent in writing.  Every time I sit down to work, I learn something new about myself.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience?

I’ve had many writing experiences, first for school and later for work.  But my first experience of creative writing simply for the sake of self-expression was my first draft of The Hole in the Middle.

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

I don’t write every day.  When I write, I’m extremely disciplined, and I work from a detailed outline.  These days, my writing life is less focused on production of new material, and much more focused on meeting readers and promoting The Hole in the Middle, which was released in November.  I’m looking forward to my visit to Winnipeg on January 28th – I’ll be at McNally Robinson at 7 pm.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

The writers that are closest to my own voice are Nora Ephron, Nick Hornby and Helen Fielding.  Every writer has a personal style, and it takes some trial and error to figure out what style comes most naturally to you.  As a comic writer, with one foot in the literary camp and the other in the commercial camp, I don’t have many models, but these three writers have managed to carve out a distinctive voice at the nexus of these various genres.

#5: What are some things you learned to help with your success?

I’ve learned a huge amount about branding and finding an audience through the process of self-publishing my work.  I’ve worked hard to connect with potential readers through social media, and I’ve been diligent about creating a personal brand that is consistent with my writing style.  I’ve learned that writing a book is only part of being a writer; your success will depend not only on the quality of your prose but on your active participation in the business of finding an audience and selling your work.

#6: Describe your writing method:

Like running a marathon, writing requires two things above all others: time and motivation.  There is an inverse correlation between the two; the less time you have available for writing, the more motivated you are to use it productively.  I suspect that the opposite is also true, but I’ve never had more than a few hours a week to devote to writing, so I haven’t tested my theory.  My method is very simple: I have time set aside every week for writing, and during the allotted time, I sit down and write.  And I work from an outline, always.  

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

Don’t worry about what is popular or what you think might sell.  Write about the things that interest you – you’ll be spending a lot of time on your manuscript, and if you aren’t enjoying the process, you’ll never finish.

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Check out The Hole in the Middle, a contemporary women’s fiction, now in bookstores!

HoleintheMiddle FINAL COVER

Sophie Whelan is the epitome of the modern superwoman. When she operates at peak performance, she can cajole balky employees, soothe her cranky children, troubleshoot career disasters, throw a dinner party for ten and draft an upbeat Christmas letter—all in the same day.

But as Sophie’s fortieth birthday looms, her seamless life reveals disturbing web-like fractures. Conflict with her boss, blossoming jealousy of her husband’s femme fatale business partner and her feelings of hopeless inadequacy as a mother and daughter are cracking the edifice of her life.

Rescue may be at hand when Lillian Parker, a wealthy widow who befriended Sophie during her university days, makes Sophie an irresistible offer. Why, then, does Sophie hesitate? The answer is the reappearance of Lillian’s nephew, Will Shannon, the great unresolved love of Sophie’s life. As she remembers the vivid drama of their college romance, Sophie confronts the choices she has made in life and in love and looks for the one answer that has always eluded her: what does she really want?

The Hole in the Middle is a heartbreaking love story, a laugh-out loud portrayal of the twin demands of work and family and a fresh take on the hot debate about having it all.

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Excerpt:

I show up at Sara’s house around eight, and book club is in full swing. I’ve come straight from the office, and my prescription is still in my purse. I’d say that I haven’t had time to fill it, but even I know that for once, lack of time isn’t the issue.

I ring the bell. Zoe answers and steps out onto the porch with me for a moment. “I was hoping it was you,” she says. “I’m not ready to tell anyone else about what’s going on with Richard, OK?” She gestures toward the house, where the rest of the book club is waiting.

“Of course,” I say. And in any event, I feel a little fuzzy on the details of Zoe’s marital crisis. Lunch feels as though it happened a week and not six hours ago.

“How are you feeling?” I ask.

She shrugs. “It helped to see you at lunch,” she says. “But I think this is one of those situations where it’s going to keep feeling worse until something big changes. I’m just not ready to think about what the something big is.” I give her a hug, and we go in. “Look everyone,” she calls. “It’s a special guest appearance by Sophie!” She drags me into the living room, where the rest of the book club bursts into enthusiastic applause.

“I haven’t read the book,” I say.

“Don’t be silly,” says Laura. “No one ever reads the book.”

“I do,” says Sara pointedly. “And it would be great if we could make a tiny effort to talk about it once in a while, even for five minutes. Hi, Soph.” She pauses. “What did you do to your arm?”

“I sprained my wrist,” I say. “It’s nothing.”

“What was the book again?” asks Laura.

Sara raises an eyebrow. “Are you really interested, or are you just trying to humor me?”

Laura laughs. “Was it good?”

“Not especially,” says Sara. “We can stop talking about it now. What’s Megan going on about?”

Like Sara, Megan is one of my old friends from the student newspaper, and I’ve caught her in mid-rant. Nora is leaning back slightly to avoid Megan’s violent gesticulations, which are, as usual, aimed at hapless, absent Bob: “And then he looks into the stroller and says, ‘I’m starting to get to the point where I remember that he’s around. Do you know what I mean?’ And I think, ‘What kind of fucking question is that? It’s kind of hard for me to forget that our baby is around when he’s hanging off my tit 24/7, but I guess you don’t have that problem, do you Bob?’ Honestly! I just looked at him and said ‘I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.’”

Megan takes a breath, looks around, and realizes that she is the main attraction. “Hi, Sophie,” she says. “Good to see you.”

I wave. “Still married?”

Megan snorts. “Barely,” she says, but she smiles a little before turning back to Nora to continue itemizing Bob’s shortcomings as a husband and father.

“What can I get you to drink?” asks Zoe. “Prosecco?” I nod, and she disappears into the kitchen. I sit down next to Sara.

“How have you been?” she asks.

“Bad day to ask,” I say. “I’d say I’ve been stressed to the point of hysteria, while at the same time struggling to find enough meaning in my work to justify my level of anxiety. I mean, shouldn’t you have to care about a job to get this worked up about it?”

“Of course not!” Zoe reappears with my glass and plops down on the sofa with us. “Do you remember the I Love Lucy episode where Lucy and Ethel are working on an assembly line at a chocolate factory? No? You know the scene in Pretty Woman where Richard Gere takes Julia Roberts up to the penthouse for the first time, and they have a fight, and then they make up, and then they stay up late watching TV?”

“Oh, yeah,” says Sara. “Right before she gives him the blow job.”

“Exactly. That moment where you think, am I really supposed to be rooting for these two to get together in the end?”

“Totally.” Megan and Nora have finished with Bob and rejoin the group. “But they aren’t watching the chocolate factory episode,” Megan says. “They’re watching the wine-making one, where Lucy runs around in a giant barrel and throws grapes at everyone.”

Zoe rolls her eyes. “The point I’m making,” she says, with the deliberate enunciation of a woman who has had too much Prosecco, “is that the chocolate factory is a perfect example of a job that is both stressful and meaningless. The chocolate starts coming faster and faster and they can’t wrap it quickly enough, and by the end they are stuffing the chocolates down their shirts and in their mouths and looking completely panic-stricken, but to no real end.”

“And this relates to Sophie’s job how?” asks Laura.

Zoe waves her hand vaguely. “Email, voicemail, staff meetings – the whole tedious routine is a modern-day, white-collar version of the conveyor belt.”

“Well, that’s a pretty bleak assessment,” I say.

“Only if you plan to be stuck beside the conveyor belt for the rest of your life,” says Zoe. “But since you don’t actually work in a chocolate factory, you have a few options. And if you would admit that you are having a midlife crisis, you could start looking at ways to change it up.”

“I’m not having a midlife crisis,” I say.

Laura laughs. “Everyone’s having a midlife crisis, Sophie,” she says. “You might as well join the club.”

***

Purchase The Hole in the Middle online:

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Connect with Kate:

Webpage: www.katehilton.com

Twitter: @katemhilton

Facebook: Kate Hilton Author

Fan email address: kate@katehilton.com

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Author in the Spotlight: Clare C. Marshall

Welcome to Clare C. Marshall, who is my guest today!

smallclareClare C. Marshall grew up in rural Nova Scotia with very little television and dial up internet, and yet, she turned out okay. She has a combined honours degree in journalism and psychology from the University of King’s College, and is a graduate from Humber College’s Creative Book Publishing Program. She is a full-time freelance editor, book designer, and web manager. She enjoys publishing young adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels through her publishing imprint, Faery Ink Press. When she’s not writing, she enjoys playing the fiddle and making silly noises at cats.

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SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: Why do you write?

Why do you breathe? If I did not create, I would have nothing. I would leave nothing behind.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience?

I don’t remember any earliest writing experiences because I’ve always been a writer. I was always writing stories, stapling pieces of paper together with coloured paper kid-illustrated covers. From an early age in school teachers would always encourage me to write, but to a fault: my stories often got out of control and I was always given extensions to hand in final copies.

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

Well, my writing time depends a lot on my client work. My client work comes first. So generally in my everyday life, I will do my client work, and then do my own writing/publishing pursuits.  Sometimes my writing time  is preceded by making large quantities of coffee or drinking energy drinks, but usually only if it’s a weekend. A lot of my writing gets done in the late of night, or if I’m not very busy, early in the morning when I get up.

So while I don’t have very structured times to do my writing, when I do plan a writing session, I make sure it gets done, because planning to do some writing is half the battle.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

A number of authors growing up influenced me, but here are a few.

Maggie Stiefvater: writing for teens doesn’t have to be juvenile, it can be poetic;

George R. R. Martin: his obsessive world building really influenced me while I was writing The Violet Fox.

K.A. Applegate: Loved her Animorphs and Remnants series. Just because something is for teens doesn’t mean it can’t be heavy and epic while maintaining its charming humor.

#5: What are some things you learned to help with your success?

Time management, mostly, since I not only publish my own books but I am a freelance editor, book designer, and web manager. Learning how to format books and create/manage websites has also helped me considerably, as I would otherwise have to outsource these things.

Also: the art of sitting down and forcing myself to get stuff done!

#6: Describe your writing method:

I tend to write the middle first, and then the end, and then the beginning. Or a little bit of each. Then, I stitch the narrative together. Then I have to re-read the draft several times to make sure there are no plot holes or other plot mistakes!

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

-Don’t wait for permission to do what you want to do.

  • -Stop making excuses or waiting for the “right mood.” If people in any other profession waited for the right mood to get something done, nothing would get done.

-Once you get going on a project, it will get easier to finish it.

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Check out Clare’s Latest book:

starsinhereyes_01

Burn hot and cold.

Read minds.

Disappear at will.

Dream your own death.

Welcome to Sparkstone University, where some students are more gifted than others.

When Ingrid learns she’s been accepted at the hyper-secretive Sparkstone University, she is sceptical. It’s an honour to attend, apparently, and yet barely anyone has ever heard of the place.

And everyone seems a little too happy that she’s there: especially when she meets Sunni and her group of friends. They seem to already know Ingrid. As if she was expected. Expected to save Earth from an imminent alien invasion. Like she has superpowers or something.

As if magic and mutations exist. As if aliens are really planning to attack.

That just sounds ridiculous. There’s no such thing.

…right?

Wrong.

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Buy Here:

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Connect with Clare:

Webpage: http://faeryinkpress.com

Twitter: @ClareMarshall13

Facebook:  http://facebook.com/faeryinkpress

Fan email address: clare@faeryinkpress.com

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